Wisconsin’s Boating While Intoxicated Laws

Read about the consequences of boating while intoxicated (BWI) in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin law prohibits operating a motorboat while intoxicated by drugs or alcohol. A person can be convicted of boating while intoxicated (BWI) for operating a motorboat while:

  • impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two to “a degree which renders him or her incapable of safe motorboat operation”
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater (.04% for commercial boaters), or
  • having a “detectable amount” of a controlled substance in the blood.

(Wis. Stat. Ann. § 30.681(1) (2016).)

BWI Penalties

The consequences of a Wisconsin BWI depend on the facts of the case. But generally, BWI penalties are:

  • First offense. A first-offense BWI generally carries $150 to $300 in fines.
  • Second offense. Where a BWI offender has had one prior BWI conviction within the past five years, the second BWI carries five days to six months in jail and $300 to $1,000 in fines.
  • Third offense. Where a BWI offender has had two prior BWI convictions within the past five years, the third BWI carries 30 days to one year in jail and $600 to $2,000 in fines.
  • BWI involving injury. If a BWI offender “causes injury” to another person while boating under the influence, the offense carries 30 days to one year in jail and $300 to $2,000 in fines.

Judges must order all BWI offenders to be assessed for and comply with recommended substance abuse treatment. And anyone convicted of a BWI must complete a state-approved boating safety program.

(Wis. Stat. Ann. § 30.80(6) (2016).)


Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to an Attorney

If you’ve been arrested for or charged with boating while intoxicated in Wisconsin, get in contact with an experienced BWI attorney. The facts of every case are different. A good BWI attorney should be able to explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on your best course of action.

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